Atlantic City Casinos Still Feeling Lingering Effects Of Covid-19 In November

Written By David Danzis on December 17, 2021

November’s gaming revenue numbers made two things clear: most Atlantic City casinos are still struggling and online gambling is showing no signs of slowing down.

According to data released Thursday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, Atlantic City casinos reported just under $206.9 million in revenue from table games and slots last month.

That figure is a 7.6% decline from pre-pandemic 2019.

Without the double-digit revenue growth of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort, the other seven properties are down a collective 22% from two years ago.

“We are pleased with Hard Rock Atlantic City’s continued positive results, along with the sustained trend of North Beach properties (Hard Rock and Ocean) seeing the largest increases in the market compared to 2019,” Joe Lupo, president of Hard Rock, said in a statement Thursday. “It is concerning, however, that land-based revenue is down, showing that COVID-19 continues to have an adverse impact on the industry.”

CasinoTable & OtherPokerSlot MachinesTotal Gaming Win
Bally's$4,303,998$ -$6,862,939$11,166,937
Borgata$8,925,408 $1,217,241$38,172,231$48,314,880
Caesars$3,791,687 $ -$12,503,724$16,295,411
Golden Nugget$1,853,071$ -$10,092,599$11,945,670
Hard Rock$11,905,021 $ -$25,394,059$37,299,080
Harrah's$4,585,668$273,294$17,619,686$22,478,648
Ocean Casino$9,155,213 $ -$19,338,785$28,493,998
Resorts$1,695,116 $-$10,450,779$12,145,895
Tropicana$4,279,038$165,537$14,302,051 $18,746,626
Total$50,494,220$1,656,072$154,736,853$206,887,145

Online gambling is the only growing segment in NJ

On the other hand, online gaming revenue accounts for a more significant percentage of the New Jersey gambling industry’s total gross revenue.

Online gambling revenue generated $118 million in November, while the Atlantic City portion of online sports betting totaled $36.7 million. Those segments are up 140% and 167%, respectively, from two years ago.

Because most online gambling revenue goes to third-party operators, those gains distort Atlantic City casinos’ economic picture.

“The year’s best performing revenue sectors, online and sports gaming, are revenues that Atlantic City’s casino operators must share with third party business providers, limiting the bottom-line earnings for those operations,” noted Jane Bokunewicz, faculty director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism (LIGHT) at Stockton University.

The truth about Atlantic City casinos and their economic health

So, why is there a perception that Atlantic City casinos are doing well when they are not?

The answer is how state gaming regulators report the industry’s revenue data.

Online operators can offer legal gaming in New Jersey by using an Atlantic City casino’s license. The three state-approved racetracks can offer online sports betting. The revenue generated by those online operators, or skins, is reported under the casino’s license.

The sum of land-based, online gaming and sports betting is reported as total gaming revenue and attributed to Atlantic City casinos.

In November, total gaming revenue reported by the nine AC casino licensees was $362.3 million, a 25.5% increase over 2019.

But, that number is not an accurate reflection of the industry’s overall economic health. The triple-digit increases from online and the declines in land-based gambling are moving in opposite directions.

Gamblers are spending less and less at Atlantic City casinos

An even deeper look at November’s gaming data shows troubling signs for Atlantic City casinos.

The amount of money gambled in November was significantly down, except at Hard Rock and Ocean.

Coin-in, or the amount gambled on slots, was down 1.1% compared to 2019. However, without Hard Rock’s 54.5% increase and Ocean’s 34.7% increase, the other seven were down 11.8% in November.

The total gambled at tables in Atlantic City casinos is also down. Again, the two newest casinos and Bally’s Atlantic City were the only properties trending up last month.

Even as a third of the market saw an uptick in table game gambling, the entire industry was down 16.2% last month compared to two years ago.

Year-to-date, coin-in is down 5.7% and table game drop is down 5.2% across the entire Atlantic City market.

Tracking year-to-date revenues

The most recent revenue data from Atlantic City casinos suggest the industry is still recovering from the effects of COVID-19. A strong summer that extended well into November helped offset year-long losses.

Year-to-date, the nine casinos have generated $2.3 billion from land-based gambling, down 5.5% from 2019.

Online gambling revenue is $1.23 billion through November. That is a 185% increase over the YTD figures in 2019.

Likewise, sports betting has increased by triple-digit percentages as well. Year-to-date, sports betting (both retail and online) reported by the nine casino licensees is $280.5 million, up 153% from 2019.

Total gaming revenue in 2021 is $3.86 billion, an increase of 27.6% over 2019.

Battle brewing in Trenton

On Monday, the state Senate and Assembly will vote on tax breaks for the casinos. The pending legislation would reduce the annual amount paid by the nine casinos in lieu of property taxes.

The move has drawn criticism from some local officials who contend it will harm taxpayers. Atlantic County is threatening to take the state to court if the bill passes.

On Friday, the industry’s lobbying group, the Casino Association of New Jersey, released a statement about November’s revenue report and the pending PILOT bill. Lupo also serves as president of the CANJ.

“The November 2021 gaming results underscore the fact that land-based gaming revenue is down and not improving. Failure to pass the PILOT legislation will have a further detrimental impact on the land-based casinos, which are still recovering from this unprecedented pandemic,” CANJ said.

AP Photo/Wayne Parry

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David Danzis

David Danzis is the lead writer for PlayNJ. He is a New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports and business. Today, he is PlayNJ’s Atlantic City “insider” and gaming industry expert on casinos, sports betting and online gambling. David lives in Mays Landing with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, a golf course, or snowboarding, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers and Knicks.

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